62,000 US drivers have been pulled over and had their cash seized by small-town American cops in the past 13 years, under civil forfeiture laws that let them declare anyone to be a probable terrorist and/or drug dealer and take their money without charge or evidence; the only way to get it back is to hire a lawyer and return, over and over again, to the tiny town you were passing through when you were robbed at badgepoint.
The CBC's advice to Canadians: "Avoid long chats if you're pulled over; don't leave litter on the floor of your car, especially energy drink cans; don't use breath/air freshener, they're evidence of drug use; don't be quiet; don't be talkative; don't wear expensive clothes; don't have tinted windows; don't consent to a search."
Because: "on an American roadway with a full wallet, in the eyes of thousands of cash-hungry cops you're a rolling ATM."
News outlets here have reported many such abuses over the years. But the Washington Post’s latest investigation exposes money-grabbing as big business.
It involves a nationwide network of enforcement agencies (except in the few states that have banned it) that operates with the help of a vast private intelligence service called “Black Asphalt” (police forces pay an enrolment fee of $19.95). The network uses consultants and trainers who either charge fees or operate on contingency, keeping a percentage of cash seized by their police pupils.
Police forces use the money to finance their departmental budgets, sometimes spending it on luxury vehicles, first-class tickets to conferences, and lavish quarters. They regard the money as rightfully theirs. One prosecutor used seized cash to defend herself against a lawsuit brought by people whose cash she seized.
American shakedown: Police won't charge you, but they'll grab your money [Neil Macdonald/CBC News]